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IMG_1694Baking awesome vegan cookies should come with a warning – WILL HAVE PEOPLE BEGGING FOR MORE! This is especially true if you send the hubby to the office along with a box of fresh cookies. A few days later you start getting comments like, ‘when are you thinking of testing more cookie recipes?’ or, ‘so and so broke up with his girlfriend and needs a pick me up’ etc etc. Obviously, if you consider yourself a vegan cookie fairy, bringing happiness and peace to the world with decadent cookies, or if you just want to avoid an office revolution; HOW can you resist!  So, off I went, with the excuse of an office-full of hungry men (and a few curious ladies ‘on a diet’), I decided to take the advantage of having ‘mouths to feed’ to try another cookie recipe from my current cookbook craze, Bake and Destroy.

Since they loved last week’s Cowboy cookies so much, I decided to make their chocoholic brothers, aka German’s Chocolate Cookies. Holy Moly! JACKPOT! 

Like my cowboy cookies, I switched up a few ingredients;  replacing the flours with all whole wheatIMG_1691 pastry flour, reducing and replacing the sugar with a mix of brown sugar and maple syrup, and replacing the canola oil with coconut oil. I toasted both the pecans and coconut shreds before folding them in the batter. I also added larger chunks of broken up chocolate instead of chocolate chips. Wow, it made for a pretty darn good cookie! Like suggested on the recipe, I undercooked them a bit and they turned out to be the softest and most decadent chocolate cookies! 

I think tuning down the amount of sugar in chocolate recipes is especially good because I prefer the more bitter chocolates, where the chocolate flavor really pops. And it totally did in these cookies, with the unexpected crunch from pieces of pecans… YUM!!!

I must admit, I did keep a few for myself…!

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Some Decadence!

VEGAN MOFO DAY 6

Yesterday I was having cravings for chocolate and pears. So I decided to make some sort of pear pie. Then I realized I had some SUPER ripe bananas which needed to be used, so I invented a fusion banana bread with pear chunks inside and covered it all with chocolate ganache. I can tell you, it didn’t let me down! Pear chunks are a definite YES in cakes.

Fusion Banana Bread with Pear Chunks and Chocolate Ganache – flour, sugar, bananas, pears, chocolate chips, coconut milk…

The recipe is just my usual banana bread without the spices and chocolate chips (which you COULD add for extra chocolatiness!)

Ingredients

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 pears, pealed and diced


Preheat oven at 180C (350F) and prepare your cake pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl whisk together the wet ingredients and incorporate into the dry mixture until smooth. Gently add in the pear chunks. Pour into the cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pie comes out clean (about 45mins).

Let cool and cover with Chloe Coscarelli’s chocolate ganache. 

DIVE IN!

Even if this is mostly a food blog, and I try to keep it positive and keep animal issues out of it; some things really irritate me and I feel like they need to be shared in order to spread the word. I got an email today from the Animals Asia Foundation which I really love. We actually sponsor 2 little bears there, Edga and Amelie. Both which were rescued from years and years of abuse and torture in bear bile farms. If you don’t know about bear bile farming I highly recommend you read into it, it is one of the most horrific human practices in terms of animal abuse, and I think that Animals Asia are really doing a great job rescuing these bears and giving them a nice life in parks where they can actually run around and be bears, instead of being caged up in a cell so tight they cannot even turn around (without mentioning the excruciating pain they must go through every time their bile gets extracted). 

Anyways, the email basically said that after all the hard work developing the sanctuary and making it the great place it is today, the foundation has now been asked to LEAVE the premises! Apparently the Ministry of Defense thinks the land will be of better use as commercial land housing tourist parks and hotels… 

Here is the email:

Dear,
We’ve had some shocking news. After working so hard over so many years to build a world-class sanctuary for the bears rescued from Vietnam’s bile farms, we are being asked to leave.

On Friday 5 October, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) informed Animals Asia that the Ministry of Defence had issued an order to evict the entire sanctuary operation and its 104 rescued bears. There is no justification for this.

It’s believed the park director, Do Dinh Tien, lobbied the Ministry of Defence to evict Animals Asia, so he can hand the land to Truong Giang Tam Dao Joint Stock Company, of which his daughter is part-owner. The company intends to build commercial property including a tourist park and hotels.

The closure would see 104 bears that have been rescued from the bile industry evicted, 77 local Vietnamese staff made unemployed, and financial losses to Animals Asia of more than US$2 million.

After years of trauma from being locked up in small cages and milked for their bile, our bears are now enjoying dens, enclosures and friends to play with. These bears will be forced to return to cages to be relocated. This will have a major negative impact on their mental and physical well-being. It is likely to take at least two years to establish a new centre with outdoor enclosures.

What we’re doing

We’re fighting this eviction notice every step of the way, appealing directly to the Vietnamese authorities, enlisting help from the international community, the media and other NGOs. But most of all we need your help.

How ridiculous is this!?!

You can get more info on their website.

They have now started an online petition which is why I wanted to share this on here. Please help the bears keep their homes, and sign the online petition.

Thanks everyone! You might want to bake that banana bread right about now! I promise, it brightens the mood. 

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I have some awesome news to share! I am going to be attending culinary school in NYC in the fall! YAY! I am super excited because it isn’t just any culinary school, it is the chef program at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Its main focus is healthy eating, which is just perfect for me. In fact, in my application letter I wrote that I was beyond excited to have found a school which won’t make me learn how to cook Foie Gras or live lobster! (without considering the heart disease or heart attack I would get just looking at those dishes) Most of the program is vegan with classes such as: knives and knife skills (yikes), the politics of food (interesting!), cost control and pricing, Ayurveda and cleansing and detoxing with living foods, cooking whole foods, and finally, baking and dessert technics (drool! drool! drool!). The program makes wonderful use of the city with visits to the colorful and abundant farmers’ market, and offers great internships in restaurants like Pure Food and Wine

What is funny is WHERE I found out about this program… Well, it was when I received my shiny new copy of Chloe’s Kitchen. I was reading her biography and I became interested in her NYC education. Right away I wondered if she had gone to a ‘traditional’ culinary school or if she had had some sort of vegan training (I mean, her desserts are INCREDIBLE!). A few google searches and websites later I was emailing the school to see if they had any space left in their october class. Thankfully, the lady of admissions was super kind and I got all my application done in less than one week; and I got in! I am sure it will be a great adventure!

But now, let’s talk Chloe’s Kitchen!

Goodness, I am SO in love with this cookbook. It has everything I look for; mouth watering pictures, simple and fast recipes, and a friendly feel. After a few weeks exploring it, it is now FULL of comments, Post-Its, splashes and even a few ripped pages! I have tried so many recipes I can’t even think clearly.

These are some of the most memorable ones which have become staples in my kitchen.

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes with(out) Raspberry Sauce: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, soy milk, canola oil, white vinegar, vanilla extract and semisweet chocolate chips

No you are NOT dreaming! This baby is a molten lava cake (p.212 – 213)!!! So EASY and perfectly divine I could’t even believe it! I have been making this once a week since I got the cookbook. It is just perfect for chocoholics like me. I sometimes even just prepare 6 ramekins in the fridge and cook them whenever I feel like a choco fix. You would imagine it would be hard to get the perfectly crunchy and airy crust, with a divine chocolaty melt inside. Well it isn’t! By adding a generous spoonful of chocolate chips to the ‘heart’ of the ramekin, you get that perfect melt without the hassle. SUPER simple. 

What I also love about this recipe is that is doesn’t use margarine. I don’t know what it is about it; but I am not a huge fan of using lots of margarine. So, seeing that the recipe called for canola oil instead was perfect. I feel it is healthier. I am also planning to try and substitute some of the ingredients sometime soon like replacing the soy milk with some coconut milk to see if it adds creaminess, allowing me to maybe reduce the amount of oil needed.

I cannot comment on the raspberry sauce which comes with the recipe because, I must admit, I have been way too busy with my eyes glued to my rising cakes in the oven to be able to concentrate on making a coulis! 

Since we are evidently going by ‘favorites’, the second most memorable recipe were the “Chlostess” Creme-Filled Cupcakes” (p.205) (I totally have some in the oven NOW). BOY are these divine! They are super fun to bake and really make an impression. I enjoyed getting a little creative with the decoration and brought them to a few ‘social events’. They were always very popular. A super bonus, in my mind, is that they taste absolutely fresh even after 3days in the fridge. There is something about the lightness and fluffiness of the cake which is perfect.

“Chlostess” Creme-Filled Cupcakes: chocolate cake, buttercream filling and chocolate ganache topping

Banana Cupcakes with Lemon Icing: banana, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, coconut milk and more!

Since we are in the topic of cupcakes, the Banana Cupcakes with Lemon Icing are to die for! (p. 199 – 200)They are so unbelievably light and tasty. I think they have the perfect balance of spices. The icing is also a blissful balance between sweet and sour. These are definite winners!

Another dessert I baked were the Cinnamon-Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 221). Something about this recipe didn’t convince me 100%. I think they were just too sweet. The texture was perfect tho because you had a great crunch on the outside with a nice gooey interior. I think I just need to remake them with way less sugar. The recipe calls for 1 cup powdered sugar plus 1/2 cup brown sugar. It might be that the powdered sugar is just way too sweet. However, the mix between the coffee and the chocolate chips was super delicious. I think they would make great “coffee time cookies”!

Cinnamon- Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies: flour, cinnamon, margarine, instant espresso powder, baking powder, salt, powdered sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips

Those are all the desserts I have tried for now. I tend to get obsessed with awesome desserts and make them over and over again. No worries tho, those Baked Sprinkle Doughnuts on page 197 are calling my name! I will probably test drive them this weekend.

I do think this is one of those cookbooks (like Vegan Table) that you will probably cook from start to finish. So many great recipes!

Okay, so I am prying myself away from sweets to chat about main courses I have tried.  First of all, we should remember the classics.

Avocado Pesto Pasta: fresh basil, pine nuts, avocados, lemon juice, olive oil

Alfredo Sauce: onions, olive oil, raw cashews, water, lemon juice, seasoning

These two have become kitchen staples. Their recipes are shared and talked about in other parts of this blog. However, in the meantime here are few tips and tricks I learned:

  • Always soak the cashews for at least 30mins in water before mixing them. This will give you a much creamier sauce, without the little grainy pieces.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of water to the avocado pesto to make it creamier and less heavy. 
  • Mix in a handful of soaked cashews to the avocado pesto for a creamier finish.
  • Add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast to the Alfredo Sauce for more taste.
  • Add Shiitake mushrooms roasted in soy sauce to the Alfredo sauce to add some different texture and more ‘saltiness’.
  • Use the left over Alfredo sauce to make a vegan ‘Pomodoro e Mascarpone’ sauce the next day. Just add in a few tablespoons tomato puree and you are ready to go! 

Easy Peasy Pasta Salad: potato, peas, tomato sauce, Dijon mustard, capers, oregano, basil, and more

Now for the newly discovered recipes. I really enjoyed the Easy Peasy Pasta Salad (p. 57). We have been having some super hot days recently and this is something which is very much appreciated for a refreshing, yet filling, lunch. The sauce is surprisingly creamy. Since I am not a huge fan of mustard I added a little less than called for, and I think it was just perfect for me. 

Lastly, this is a recipe I made last night and I called my mom up right away because she LOVES this! (I promised I would make it for her next time she visits) It is a soul satisfying Warm Spinach – Artichoke Dip with Tortillas (p. 41). I admit, I was VERY nervous to try this recipe because I was a huge fan of the ones made at CPK or Cheesecake Factory (not the most healthy, I know), when I was not yet vegan. I was afraid it would not live up to my memories and expectations. But it DID!!! It was incredibly tasty, cheesy, and melty! The entire portion was basically my fiancé and myself’s dinner last night. It was too perfect. The only ‘cheesiness’ needed is achieved with some nutritional yeast and soft tofu brings in the creaminess. (sorry, no picture of this recipe yet because we were just too much in cheesy heaven!)

I rarely cook with soft tofu, unless it is to cube it into miso soups. This recipe really opened my eyes on it’s potential for creaminess. I now understand why people love it so much in chocolate mousse desserts. To be explored!

I will be back with more Chloe talk soon as soon as I check out some more recipes!

ENJOY!

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Last night I was watching a rerun of Cupcake Wars and I got the itch to try frosting a bunch of cupcakes. They were making such pretty ones and so many! I have NEVER frosted cupcakes before, and I never particularly liked cupcakes because I always found them to be too sweet. But, HOLY MOLY were these awesome!

I actually have a tee-shirt which says, ‘Cupcakes are just stuck up muffins’. Nothing beats the comfort of a nice warm muffin. But let’s face it; a well frosted cupcake can be elegant, fun and tasty! When you do it yourself, you can pick the ingredients and design it completely for your liking. I didn’t find these too sweet, or too frosted, or too dry. They were perfect.

I decided to just stick to my well oiled chocolate cake recipe for the cupcakes and try a couple of different frosting recipes.

The cupcake recipe is based on this as well as the frosting. Then I also tried a peanut butter and chocolate frosting which was delicious for the cupcake fillings, but it remained too sticky to look good as a toping.

It took me a few tries to get the frosting to look good and keep its shape.  I think the most important thing is to really let the cupcakes cool before attempting to frost them. I tried various pipings and I found the simple one to be the nicest for this particular frosting. Then I just added the piece of strawberry and square of dark chocolate for decoration. I think the missing touch would have been some powdered sugar, but I had run out.

What I want to try next is some buttercream type frosting, as well as fruit based fillings. I love how, with cupcakes, the options are really limitless!

HAVE FUN!


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Swimming in Chocolate

We had been feeling chocolaty over the past few days. So I did some research in my cookbooks and found this recipe in The Joy Of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick – Goudreau (p.72 & 230). I am so happy with how well it came out! This was also my first time frosting a cake! It was WONDERFUL! 

I also have to say that this is one of my all time favorite cookbooks! It is so simple to follow, you have TONS of pictures (I get super frustrated with cookbooks that don’t have pictures) and the amount of recipes is incredible. I also like that there is an entire chapter explaining how to replace non vegan baking essentials with various vegan alternatives. I definitely learned some things. The author manages to make vegan baking not only accessible and healthy, but delicious. I am pretty certain that if you ask someone about this cake they would NEVER guess it is vegan.

My boyfriend got super excited when he saw it. He ate 5 slices! (and this was BEFORE dinner)

If you don’t have the cookbook yet, you can find this cake recipe, along with the chocolate frosting recipe on the cookbook’s website, as one of the sample recipes. I also recommend checking out her other website, which is full of great information, especially for aspiring or new vegans. 

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